The perennial tagline for the NAB Show in Las Vegas is "Where Content Comes to life"--and there is certainly no shortage of either content or life, with around 1,500 exhibitors and more than 100,000 attendees. There is so much to see, navigating your way to your “must see” exhibits and surviving the crowds can be a daunting and exhausting task. I love the NAB Show, I think of it as a giant theme park for TV/Media geeks. The 2014 convention will be my sixth show, and I've put together a few rules that will be helpful in preparing for the expo:
1. Wear comfortable shoes.
From a purely practical standpoint, you need to prepare for a lot of walking and standing. The Las Vegas Convention Center is huge (more than 3 million sq. ft) and the NAB Show and exposition uses every square inch of it. Comfortable shoes are a must, and if you’re coming for the entire week, bring a backup pair. Also, wear comfortable clothing, but don't go too casual, the show is a meeting of professionals and the attitude is definitely business oriented. If you're planning on picking up brochures, sales literature, or anything else, wait until the last day, and bring something comfortable to lug it around. If you're attending one of the conferences and not just the expo, you may get a messenger bag as part of your conference registration (I’m not sure of the specifics on this, but when I attended the 2009 NAB Show Government/Military Track I received a nice little messenger bag preloaded with a bunch of marketing material).
2. Stay hydrated.
One of the most indispensable items I keep in my messenger bag is a reusable water bottle. Even if you're used to the Las Vegas heat, the walking, talking, and schmoozing can really take its toll. Experts suggest that you should drink 1oz. of water for every two pounds of bodyweight per day (so, a 200lb person needs 100oz. of water a day). If you don’t want to carry a water bottle around and you’re willing to pay out the nose, there are plenty places to buy snacks and beverages (Pro Tip: North Hall and South Upper usually have a few exhibitors giving out free coffee).
3. Be prepared to spend money.
Everything in Sin City seems to be expensive, and the LVCC (Las Vegas Convention Center) makes the Strip seem affordable. There are several places to eat at the convention center, but I've found that the restaurant in South Lower or the food truck between South and Central is the best bang for the buck. The monorail, taxi cabs, book shop, and after-hours schmoozing can really add up.
4. Have a plan.
With so much to see, organizing your schedule at the NAB Show can really be the toughest part of your trip. The key to seeing what you need to see and avoiding early burnout is good prior planning. Before you get to the show, sit down with the exhibitor list and make a "Must See" list noting where each exhibitor is located so you can plan your route. When you're at the expo, refer to your list occasionally and check off exhibits you’ve seen. I like to take a map of the convention center and cross off areas as I leave them, and note exhibitors that I'd like to go back to if I have time. It is important to schedule breaks and to take them, you won't have a good experience if you're exhausted. If you do get tired, take advantage of the complimentary buses and save yourself a walk, or sit in on one of the many demonstrations or shows to recharge.
5. Keep an open mind.
Even if you’re going to the NAB Show to meet with specific vendors and look at specific products, keep your eyes open. Look at competing products. Look at creative solutions. Look at the companies you already ruled out. Look at some of the smaller booths and companies, they may be able to provide a better solution. In 2010, I went to the NAB Show with purchase orders in hand for an all new control room setup, and by the end of the show I had met with companies I didn’t know existed and had completely redesigned the system for HD and saved 60k. In 2011, I went with the intention of finding everything I needed to build a “control room in a box” that would fit on a float plane. I mentioned my mission to another attendee, and he pointed me to a small company that made exactly what I was looking for and it cost way less than what I was expecting.
Bonus Round: 2 Things to watch out for
Cell phone reception can be spotty due to congestion and other factors, You’ll probably miss calls, so you may want to use SMS or IM. There are some WiFi hotspots around the LVCC, but my success rate with them has been about 50/50. (The one exception being the press room, but I haven’t been a press attendee in a few of years, so can’t really comment on that)
The last couple of years, I’ve heard that taxi fraud (its called “long hauling”) was on the rise, so if you take a cab, keep your eyes open. Don’t let them take you through point C when you’re just trying to get from point A to point B. If you’re worried about cabs, it is possible to take public transit to and from the airport, and its not that bad.
Take care of yourself, make a plan and keep an open mind. The NAB Show is a great place to meet people and see the latest trends and technology. I’ll see you in Las Vegas!
Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn